What is stress?The World Health Organization website defines stress as any type of change that causes physical, emotional or psychological strain. Stress is your body's response to anything that requires attention or action.Everyone experiences stress to some degree. The way people respond to stress, however, makes a big difference to their overall well-being. Stress affects both the brain and body. Little bit of stress is good for people to perform and protect themselves but too much stress can overwhelm them leading to fight, flight or freeze response.So learning how to cope with stress is important for our mental and physical wellbeing. Stress can manifest as fear, worry, inability to relax, increased heart rate, difficulty in breathing, disturbance in sleeping patterns, change in eating patterns, difficulty in concentrating worsening of pre-existing health conditions (physical and mental) and increased use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.Foods can help tame stress in several ways. Comfort foods, like a bowl of warm oatmeal, boost levels of serotonin, a calming brain chemical. Other foods can cut levels of cortisol and adrenaline stress hormones, which take a toll on the body over time. A healthy diet can help counter the impact of stress by shoring up the immune system and lowering blood pressure.Broccoli.Broccoli is packed with vitamin B and folic acid, which are important nutritional allies to combat stress. Constant anxiety can damage the nervous system. Broccoli being high in vitamins limits the damage enabling the body to deal with stress better..Almonds.These tiny nuts are packed not only with vitamins and minerals but also good unsaturated fats such as omega 3 and omega 6. When you are stressed the body produces more free radicals (important for regular metabolic process). However, free radicals are also associated with cell damage and cellular breakdown causing increased risk of cancer and heart disease. Almonds, being a good source of vitamin E, are helpful in fighting free radical attacks and act as powerful anti-oxidant..Whole grains.Complex carbohydrates are known for increasing serotonin levels thus helping you to deal with stressful situations more effectively. It includes a variety of carbohydrates low on glycaemic index and high on fibre. Examples of complex carbohydrates include oats, wheat, ragi, jowar, bajra, brown rice etc. They help control blood sugar levels thus preventing spikes.Constant fluctuations in blood sugar levels can cause short bursts of energy followed by long slumps, which lead to increased susceptibility of mood swings and irritability. Therefore, three to four servings of whole grains in a day is essential to keep stress levels in control..Oranges.Oranges are a rich source of vitamin C, which have the ability to lower cortisol levels. Cortisol levels refer to stress hormones which can be combatted using a powerful anti-oxidant, such as vitamin C, as it helps to fight free radical attacks. Also, when you are stressed the adrenal glands produce excess cortisol, which lowers your immunity leading to muscle breakdown for energy instead of channelling muscle glycogen for repair..Spinach.Insufficient amounts of magnesium in the body triggers headache and fatigue which are the primary reasons for stress. One cup of magnesium helps you get back your magnesium content to optimum levels. In addition, green leafy vegetables are a good source of magnesium. Magnesium deficiency is characterised by symptoms such as muscle weakness, nausea, irritability and depression. To mitigate stress levels once should consume 300 mg of magnesium..Avocado.Avocado guarantees to stress proof the body. It contains glutathione, which blocks intestinal absorption of fats that cause oxidative damage. Oxidative damage is known as a precursor to stress. thus the stress blockers contained in avocados such as, lutein, beta-carotene, vitamin E and folate, help to radically reduce stress. However, avocado should be consumed in moderate proportions due to its high fat content..Milk.A warm glass of milk before bed time is a time-tested remedy for insomnia. Milk is rich in vitamin B2 and B12, protein, calcium and anti-oxidants. It also contains protein lactium known for its calming effect by lowering blood pressure and potassium which aids in relieving muscle spasms triggered by stress.To summarise, stress levels can be combated effectively with healthy and good food choices.Ms Janvi Chitalia (ISSA certified fitness nutritionist, an ACSM certified personal instructor with a PG Diploma in Weight Management from University of Chester, UK) is a Consultant Dietician.